Giant Leopard Moth questions...More than you wanted to know...?

spamhater at nospam.nyet spamhater at nospam.nyet
Tue Jul 20 16:18:50 EDT 1999

leaving out anything. First of all, you have Ecpantheria scribonia, a
member of the Arctiidae (Tiger Moth) family. It is not one of the more
common species in this group, and is sought after by collectors and
breeders. It has a 'wooly bear' type larva,  as do most Arctiids,
'fuzzy' and black, with narrow red bands in between each segment of
its body, and is very active (I have not seen any other  larva that
can move as fast as one of these!) They do eat dandelion in the larval
stage, as well as plantain- another typical 'wooly bear'
characteristic.  There is no need to offer dandelion to the adult
moth, except perhaps so she might oviposit on it (but she will usually
oviposit on any surface available, if not given a choice, so if you
want to keep some eggs to rear, you could just put her in a container
that later could be used to raise the young larvae). The adults are
nocturnal, and are attracted to lights. Usually males are more
commonly found at lights than females. I admire your concern and
attention given to it, (a rare quality in many people today,
especially when it comes to 'bugs'!) but the moth was probably
senescent (old, or already on the wing for some time and near the end
of her adult life) and therefore, it is probably not necessary to
continue feeding her as, sorry to say, she will die shortly after
laying whatever ova she may have left. The moth probably already had
laid the majority of her ova in the wild before you came to have her,
and if she is exhibiting signs of being 'crippled' or not being able
to walk about briskly, she is most likely near the end of her life,
and has already done her part in reproducing and carrying on the
species. The adult females of this species don't fly too much, (that's
why they are not found at lights as much as the males are); they tend
to remain in a small area they have chosen to deposit eggs (usually
near where pupation took place and where there is an abundance of
larval hostplant). Therefore, the fact that she is not flying is not
in and of itself, indicative of a problem, but since as I have said
she is probably senescent anyway, she cannot be expected to be able to
fly (especially if she can't even walk well). Her ova will hatch in
about 2 weeks (give or take, depending on temperature) - probably
less, since it is very hot here in NJ as well and this has caused
premature hatching of moth ova that I have (Actias luna ova laid last
week are hatching today!) The larvae, as mentioned, should be offered
fresh dandelion or plantain leaves, and will also eat violets, maple,
cabbage, sunflower and a range of other plants as well (make certain
that you thoroughly wash any 'store-bought' foods like cabbage to
remove pesticides before offering it to the caterpillars!) They can be
kept (if you wish to rear them) in a fairly large CLEAN jar, (or
several, depending on how many you have, since overcrowding will lead
to disease). They are easy to rear as long as (a) you keep the
humidity in the container under control so that the food will not
wilt, but not so high as to cause mold or condensation and (b) keep
the caterpillars supplied with fresh food, even if they have not
finished what food they have after a couple of days) (c) empty out the
frass (excrement) on a daily basis (this will look like tiny black
specks when the larvae are young, as they grow, so will the frass size
(and amount) until it will look like small pellets when they are
mature. The larvae may require overwintering in the fridge, (NOT the
freezer!) if they are this year's final brood, and periodically must
be pulled out, warmed up and fed for a few hours, then put back into
the cold so that they can continue hibernation. This is the only
difficult aspect to rearing them, and is typical of Arctiids, in that
they overwinter as larvae and require a hibernation period,
interrupted periodically for a nibble. Otherwise, you should have
success (I recommend that you try to rear only a few,  perhaps a dozen
or so, and release the rest into the wild, so that it will be easier
to keep them from being overcrowded (and having to find large amounts
of food!) The larvae will undergo several molts, becoming larger each
time, and must not be disturbed during the molt, as they are delicate
at that time (you can tell they are about to molt as they will stop
eating, and their head will have an odd, protruding appearance (as
they pull out of their old skins). The larvae, if of overwintering
stock, will pupate in Spring of next year, producing a loose cocoon
made primarily of larval hairs, with very little silk, and the adults
will begin to eclose (emerge) typically June through August, although
a few may eclose earlier or later. If you would like more help or
information, feel free to email me at the address below (the header
address: spamhater...etc. is to well, you guessed it, make things a
tad more difficult for those blasted spammers!) :
    njleps at

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